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Young v. Smith

United States District Court, E.D. California

August 31, 2017

CINDY CE CE YOUNG, formerly known as CHRISTOPHER DUKE YOUNG, Plaintiff,
v.
CHRISTOPHER SMITH, et al., Defendants.

          FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

          CRAIG M. KELLIS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff, a prisoner proceeding pro se, brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pending before the court is defendant Smith's motion to dismiss (Doc. 45), joined by defendant Andrews (Doc. 54).

         I. PLAINTIFF'S ALLEGATIONS

         This action proceeds on plaintiff's first amended complaint against Christopher Smith and Dr. Andrews. Plaintiff states that, beginning in early 2011, he sought additional medical and mental health treatment for gender dysphoria. Specifically, plaintiff claims that defendant Smith rejected as unnecessary recommendations from plaintiff's “regular hormone doctor” that he receive hair removal treatments, bleaching creams, and female clothing. Plaintiff alleges that defendant Smith did not base his decision on any medical grounds but solely on a prison policy of not providing treatment for gender dysphoria.

         Plaintiff alleges that defendant Andrews was consulted by plaintiff's “clinician, ” L. Bessemer, in August 2014 regarding gender dysphoria treatment but that defendant Andrews “personally blocked potential treatment by telling me and Bessemer that there was no authorized services/treatments” for gender dysphoria patients. According to plaintiff: “This statement I later found out was untrue, and this defendant [Andrews] was deliberately indifferent to my serious medical needs for lying. . . .” Plaintiff states that, by February 2015, he was placed in a higher level of mental health care after he threatened to cut off his genitals himself.

         For relief, plaintiff seeks a declaration that defendants' acts were unconstitutional, an order directing defendants to provide an individualized evaluation of plaintiff's medical case by a qualified gender dysphoria specialist, and an order directing defendants to “follow the recommendations already given by medical specialist.”

         II. STANDARDS FOR MOTION TO DISMISS

         In considering a motion to dismiss, the court must accept all allegations of material fact in the complaint as true. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007). The court must also construe the alleged facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974); see also Hosp. Bldg. Co. v. Rex Hosp. Trustees, 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976); Barnett v. Centoni, 31 F.3d 813, 816 (9th Cir. 1994) (per curiam). All ambiguities or doubts must also be resolved in the plaintiff's favor. See Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421 (1969). However, legally conclusory statements, not supported by actual factual allegations, need not be accepted. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949-50 (2009). In addition, pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by lawyers. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972).

         Rule 8(a)(2) requires only “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief” in order to “give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atl. Corp v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). However, in order to survive dismissal for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain more than “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action;” it must contain factual allegations sufficient “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Id. at 555-56. The complaint must contain “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570. “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. “The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “Where a complaint pleads facts that are ‘merely consistent with' a defendant's liability, it ‘stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility for entitlement to relief.” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).

         In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court generally may not consider materials outside the complaint and pleadings. See Cooper v. Pickett, 137 F.3d 616, 622 (9th Cir. 1998); Branch v. Tunnell, 14 F.3d 449, 453 (9th Cir. 1994). The court may, however, consider: (1) documents whose contents are alleged in or attached to the complaint and whose authenticity no party questions, see Branch, 14 F.3d at 454; (2) documents whose authenticity is not in question, and upon which the complaint necessarily relies, but which are not attached to the complaint, see Lee v. City of Los Angeles, 250 F.3d 668, 688 (9th Cir. 2001); and (3) documents and materials of which the court may take judicial notice, see Barron v. Reich, 13 F.3d 1370, 1377 (9th Cir. 1994).

         Finally, leave to amend must be granted “[u]nless it is absolutely clear that no amendment can cure the defects.” Lucas v. Dep't of Corr., 66 F.3d 245, 248 (9th Cir. 1995) (per curiam); see also Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc).

         III. DISCUSSION

         Defendant Smith argues: (1) this action has become moot because plaintiff was approved for gender reassignment surgery on April 12, 2016; and (2) plaintiff fails to state a claim under § 1983 because plaintiff alleges nothing more than a disagreement in medical opinion. Defendant Andrews joins in defendant Smith's argument that the case is moot.

         The court does not agree that the action has been rendered completely moot by the April 2016 approval for gender reassignment surgery. As plaintiff notes in opposition to defendant Smith's motion, while gender reassignment surgery has been approved, no provision has been made for hair removal treatments, bleaching creams, and female clothing which plaintiff claims have been recommended by Dr. Kumar. Therefore, plaintiff's third request for relief - ...


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